Exploring the Hidden Secrets of Melbourne With the Best Tour in Town

I received a lot of suggestions from the expert concierge at the InterContinental Melbourne. In an experiment, I decided to use the hotel’s famous concierge service to help plan our time in Melbourne to see if they could do a better job than I could. Well, yeah, they could. It was with their help that I found what surely must be the best walking tour in town, the Lanes and Arcades Tour offered by the quirky tour company, Hidden Secrets.

We met Fiona at Federation Square in downtown Melbourne. It’s a popular spot, but we still managed to pick her out right away. Fiona was fashionably dressed and waiting, we were late and a little embarrassed that we had somehow failed to find one of the most recognizable areas of town. We were the only tour participants that day and were excited to see the city as residents enjoy it.

Hidden secret Melbourne
Melbourne lane

Fiona is the owner of the company, and it was her direction that created one of the most popular tours in town. Rather than rattle off the sites found in guidebooks, Fiona has designed tours that showcase the beauty of the city, along with its hidden secrets. She focuses on small businesses and how they combine to create the unique atmosphere found only in Melbourne. The tours can be tailored to the participant, but the goals are always the same. To show a side of Melbourne the visitor may not be able to find on their own and to focus on local content, alongside innovations in design and culture.

Hidden Secret Melbourne
Melbourne Arcade

Hidden Secret Melbourne

Melbourne’s laneways and arcades are unusual. The lanes are reclaimed utilitarian areas that are now de facto pedestrian zones full of quirky shops and wonderful restaurants and bars. The arcades are a remnant of another age, but still keep their period charm as shopping areas highlighting locally owned and unusual stores.

One look at the two of us and Fiona could tell we were not shopping mavens. Instead we wanted to see the ‘other’ side to the city and she was more than happy to oblige. We immediately delved into the heart of the lanes, small streets we had unknowingly walked by just a few moments before.

Fiona expertly pointed out history as played out in the city’s architecture and explained about the preservation initiatives in the city. Melbourne is a gold rush town and at one time was the richest city in the world. You can see the remnants of this gilded age everywhere, if you know where to look. Along the way, Fiona took us to fun shops for treats of macaroons, chocolates and well brewed cups of flat whites. Dinner recommendations and endless ideas for future adventures were rattled off at a dizzying speed.

Hidden Secret Melbourne

Hidden Secret Melbourne

Tours are about more than just information. As a former tour guide, I know that most people won’t remember many of the amazing facts they learn. What they do remember is how they felt and if they enjoyed the experience. By the end of the tour, I didn’t want it to stop. I could have spent the whole day with Fiona, learning my way about town and discovering some amazing spots. Without exaggeration, it is one of the best tours I’ve been on anywhere.

Later that day, we revisited many of the stores we didn’t have time to explore on the tour and returned with bags full of salted caramels, fun books and a macaroon or ten. I can’t thank Fiona enough for teaching us about Melbourne through her eyes and sharing with us what makes it so great. If you ever visit Melbourne, a tour with Hidden Secrets should be the first thing you do, and be sure to ask for macaroon recommendations.

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By: Matt Long

Matt has a true passion for travel. As someone who has a bad case of the travel bug, Matt travels the world in order to share tips on where to go, what to see and how to experience the best the world has to offer. Also follow Matt on Twitter, Facebook and

9 Responses

  1. Charu

    Matt, having taken so many tours, I know what you mean about not remembering all the facts about a tour–but I wish I did. It adds MUCH more dimension to a place. On a recent trip to Montreal, I had a fabulous tour guide from Tourisme Montreal who absolutely MADE the trip. It’s a make/break situation. Hope to visit Melbourne one day!

    Reply
    • Matt Long

      Thanks Charu and you’re right, a really well done tour makes a huge difference in our enjoyment of a new place.

      Reply
  2. Erik

    It’s an awesome city. Sydney gets all the publicity, and it may be more beautiful, but I had more fun in Melbourne.

    Reply
  3. Justin Morris

    Awesome post Matt, love it that you enjoyed my home town and the photo of Centre Way Arcade brought back lots of memories hanging out there. Melbourne is really special to me and we pride ourselves on our rich cultural aspects, especially food and coffee. Coffee is like an absolute staple of a Melburnian’s diet, and we take it super seriously. 🙂

    Reply
    • Matt Long

      I fell in love with Melbourne almost instantly. I also noticed that chocolate seems to be pretty popular too. 🙂

      Reply
  4. Gerard ~ GQ trippin

    I can’t wait to visit Melbourne. I arrive into Melbourne right on Australia Day. Then I’ll get to see why Melbourne is one of the best cities to live in the world.

    Reply
    • Matt Long

      you’ll love it, it really is a great city

      Reply
  5. Rachel

    Matt that tour looks amazing and certainly brings back some warm memories of my time in Melbourne. Did you see them making the sweets in the lolly shop Suga that features in you photographs?
    The lanes are definitely worth an explore.

    Reply
    • Matt Long

      It’s a really well done tour and I know others who have done it since and have said the same, so the consistency is definitely there.

      Reply

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